July 2015

Blue Jays and Rockies Trade-My Take

I’ve shared my thoughts on the Phillies and Rangers trade. Now I take a look at what the Blue Jays have done in their deal with the Rockies.

At the time the deal with the Rockies was announced, I mentioned on the Short Hops podcast that I felt they needed at least one more pitcher. They got him in David Price. He’s not just any pitcher. He’s David Price-a difference maker. More about that in another blog. The deal they made with Colorado is my focus here.

The prospects the Blue Jays sent to Colorado are top shelf in my opinion. And the Blue Jays get a legitimate star. Some say a superstar. I’m not among them. But he’s a star.

THE ROCKIES GET: SS Jose Reyes, P Miguel Castro, P Jeff Hoffman and P Jesus Tinoco.

Reyes should do well offensively at Coors Field. He will contribute to the team’s offense by getting on base and scoring runs. I’m not sure we’ll see much in the way of stolen bases from him. What he won’t bring is the defense he once played. His defensive decline is troublesome. If, in fact, the Rockies are trying to upgrade their pitching, it will be difficult without Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. The drop off from Tulo to Reyes could be dramatic. That said, I’m not sure Reyes remains with the Rockies. Maybe he’ll be flipped in the off season and find a role with an American League club where he can serve as a DH and play shortstop. Maybe. If I’m the Rockies I listen.

Castro is a 20-year old right-handed pitcher with a cannon for an arm. He is a big man at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. I think he can stand to add more weight and strength to his frame, and that may happen. He can touch 97 with regularity on his fastball and needs development time to improve his command. He’s walking over 5 per nine innings, but he’s still very, very young and inexperienced. His role will have to be defined by the Rockies, but he can pitch at any point in the game-from start to finish. He throws a sweeping slider from a low arm slot and it’s difficult to pick up the ball in his hand. His third pitch is a changeup that continues to improve. While I won’t classify him as elite, he could become way better than a Major League average pitcher. The Rockies bought upside with Castro. Huge upside. They will have to be patient.

Hoffman may be the real gem of the trade. This guy is 6-foot-4, 185 pounds. He’s right handed and is a former first round Draft pick out of East Carolina University. He throws gas. He has an outstanding fastball and it isn’t unusual for him to hit the very high 90’s.
Unlike lots of other prospect pitchers, Hoffman has command and control that play. He may not be that far off. He throws a wicked slider, curveball and changeup along with the heat. He did, however, have Tommy John surgery and has returned to pitch in Double-A. He misses bats and gets ground ball outs-both crucial components to pitch at Coors.

Tinoco is the one in the group I know the least about. I do know he’s…you guessed it…6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. He’s a right-hander from Venezuela and he’s 20 years-old.

THE BLUE JAYS GET: Troy Tulowitzki and LeTroy Hawkins

Tulowitzki showed his power and value immediately for the Blue Jays as he homered in his first game with his new club. He will thrive in Toronto as he did at Coors. I think he’ll be fine on the road, but we have to wait and see how he adjusts to American League pitchers and American League parks. But consider being a pitcher and having to navigate through Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Colabello, Martin, Pillar, etc. Yikes! Those are some formidable bats. If nothing else, they can pound the opposition into submission.

I am concerned about how the artificial turf will impact Tulowitzki’s legs, back, hips, etc. I’m sure he isn’t too thrilled about playing on that surface.

Without a doubt, Tulowitzki lengthens the power potential of the lineup and adds a tremendous defensive dimension to the team. The price was steep to get him, but how many times does a club get to add an All Star of his caliber to their everyday lineup?

Hawkins is a seasoned veteran on the back end of his career. I hope he can add some value to the Blue Jays pen, which does need a shot in the arm.

When it’s all said and done, this is a trade that could help put the Blue Jays in the playoffs now-especially with the addition of David Price which I’ll discuss in a different blog. But-it also provides the Rockies with a new road map out of the basement. They may be able to see some light in the future. The future being two years from now.

In reality, the Rockies did not win anything with Tulowitzki on the roster. Actually, they haven’t won with Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. It all comes back to pitching. They had to find guys that can blow the opposition away. Hoffman and Castro have that potential. Add them to Butler and Gray and it brings hope. The jet stream and altitude of Coors are significant factors in finding pitching success. It isn’t impossible to pitch there. However, the pitcher either has to keep the ball down in the zone and induce ground balls or strike the hitter out. Get the ball up in the zone and you can kiss it goodbye. And the outfield real estate is so spacious that doubles and triples are as lethal as home runs. So-these new arms change the dynamic in Colorado. At the price of a huge star-Troy Tulowitzki.

This trading deadline breathes life into the Phillies and the Rockies in my opinion. It doesn’t make either contenders. Yet. But it puts them back on the baseball map. Neither team has been in the discussion for years. Now we’ll watch them and talk about them.

While I like the Blue Jays improvement with Tulowitzki, I like the change of direction and new life it gives the Rockies. It’ll be refreshing for them when these guys are mature enough and ready to help. Patience will be a virtue in Colorado. Patience.

Now, add Price in to the equation for the Blue Jays and it changes everything. He and Tulo together put the club on a whole new path. One that leads directly to the playoffs.

I’ll have more to say here at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD regarding other trades. Especially David Price going to Toronto.

Thanks for reading this. Follow me @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.


My Take: The Phillies and Rangers Trade

The Philadelphia Phillies have been coming up dry for months digging test wells throughout the United States and probably Ontario, Canada as well. Last night they finally struck oil. And it was a gusher. Appropriately, the discovery was in Texas- a state where the oil flows.

And as quickly as I can write the words “the Phillies are relevant once again” the Phillies became relevant once again. It probably took a great deal of time to cobble the deal together, but after the deal was announced, the team immediately returned to the conversation regarding baseball teams that are on the upswing. It happened that quickly. They are once again a meaningful franchise.

THE TEXAS RANGERS GET: Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman as well as Cash.

Cole Hamels is coming off a masterful no-hitter against the Cubs. He’s an ace with time left on his contract. He has pitched in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, making the transition to the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park more palatable. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Hamels is 31. And of course, he’s left handed. He stabilizes the Rangers rotation and adds depth and quality to their club.

Jake Diekman is a 28 and is also left-handed. He isn’t quite Aroldis Chapman, but he brings his fastball at 98 mph out of the bullpen. He’s hittable and still has some refinement left in his command and control. He misses lots of bats, but he walks too many batters. Diekman is more than just another arm. He’s a power arm.

THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES GET: C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, P Jared Eickhoff, P Alec Asher, P Jake Thompson, P Matt Harrison and a partridge in a pear tree.

Christmas in July for the Phillies. I don’t know which front office people did the prospecting in this discovery, but they did a fantastic job.

Alfaro is a hitter-first catcher with tremendous upside. He’s recovering now from an ankle injury. Sitting only behind the Cubs Kyle Schwarber as the best overall prospect catcher in baseball, Alfaro could be a huge part of the Phillies future. He’s 6-foot-2 and 225 very strong pounds. I see him eventually as a perennial All Star. When I saw him a couple seasons ago in the Arizona Fall League he stood out as a “can’t miss” stud. He’s an exciting player to watch hit. And he’ll be outstanding in that park.

Williams is an exciting, dynamic outfielder. When I saw him he could punish pitches in one at-bat and then look awful in another. He’ll turn 22 in September. At 6-foot-3 and a slender 195 pounds, he has power and speed and makes things happen. And yes, he is prone to strike out. But his upside is outstanding and he, too, could be an All Star. His natural talent is off the charts and it will come to fruition at some point in the next couple of years.

Eickhoff is right-handed, is 25 and is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. He throws a very solid fastball/curveball combination among a four pitch mix that includes a slider and change up. The resource I spoke with last night called Eickhoff a real “sleeper” in the deal. Right now he’s 9-4 at Triple-A Round Rock. He’s a great arm to develop for the Phils.

Asher is a right-hander similar in stature to Eickhoff. He is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He has an outstanding slider as his main offering. He’s also at Round Rock where he’s got a 3-6 record as a starter. He’s had some issues with home runs in his career.

Thompson is another right-hander with a physical frame of….you guessed it, 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. He came from the Tigers in a trade and is now pitching in Double-A for Frisco. His best pitch is also a slider, but like the other pitching prospects he has a full arsenal including a fastball, curve and changeup. He, too, has to refine his command and control.

Harrison is a …here’s a shocker…6-foot-4, 240 pound lefty coming off serious injury. He’s been pitching in the big leagues for parts of eight seasons. He’s going to be 30 in September. I frankly don’t know how much he will help Philadelphia. His injury history is not good. It may have been a case of “take on this salary and you get….”

Yes, I think the Phillies came away with a bonanza. Overnight they stocked their shelves with lots of goodies. When Alfaro returns healthy and Williams figures out quality pitching, in my opinion we’ll be talking about them as stars of the game.

Could Philadelphia have gotten more from another club? I think if they could have, they would have. The front office dug those wells and came up dry for months and months. Finally, they hit the mother load.

As for Hamels and the Rangers-he will pair with Yu Darvish when Darvish returns to health to form an awesome one-two, righty-lefty punch at the top of the Rangers rotation. He will help the Rangers compete with teams like the Angels and Astros in the division. It will be tough to sweep the Rangers in any series with those two studs at the top of the rotation. And if they do get to the playoffs next year, teams will have to navigate through Darvish and Hamels to move on to the next level. That won’t be easy.

Hamels steadies the rocky starting pitching road the Rangers have been riding for more than two years. Their starters have been hurt. They needed Hamels. The cost was steep.

We must remember this: prospects are prospects. Proven players like Hamels are proven players. Night and day. But that said, I really, really like the prospects that will now be calling Philadelphia their new home.

Watch for my next blog as I break down the Blue Jays/Rockies trade.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.


Cincinnati-All Star Environment

I’m happy to be writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio. And caps off to the folks of the Queen City, as they have done a wonderful job making guests feel comfortable and at home in this historic city.

The ambiance and welcoming began at the airport. Signs greetng fans to All Star Week were everywhere to be seen. What I really like is the mustache logo that is carried everywhere in the All Star environment.

As I write this sitting in the press box at Great American Ball Park, I’m looking at the logo carved in center field. The mustache is evident. Way cool.

Our MLB.com folks are staying at an all suites hotel that is very conveniently located. Right outside is a statue of President Garfield. And down the street about three blocks is one of the true classic watering holes in the country—Arnold’s. Arnold’s was built in 1861, and everything about it is mellow. Yes, it looks old. But yes, it has tremendous charm. There’s an outside area where two men from a Shakespeare group performed on stage. When they were introduced I kind of rolled my eyes. Shakespeare? But they did the famed Who’s On First Abbot and Costello routine and then Casey At The Bat. They were outstanding. My negative initial impression was way wrong.
I had an outstanding hamburger. Outstanding. With coffee. No fries. And no beer. I don’t drink much beer.

Walking back to the hotel I got the scent of horses. Of course, that meant there would be horse and buggy rides available. And man, were they busy. The buggy’s were all decked out in purple and/or red lights with flowers, peace signs, love birds and various and sundry ornaments. It made for a nice atmosphere on the very crowded streets. No, I didn’t take a buggy ride. I lived vicariously through the sensory gifts they provided.

Yes there are some vacant stores, but there are also some very vibrant and up to the minute shops and entertainment venues in the downtown area. The people could not be any more friendly.

Fountain Square was packed with food trucks, artists, musicians and people just having a good time.

No-I haven’t had Skyline Chili yet. I don’t think I can handle that today, if you know what I mean. I’ll leave the chili for others. But believe me, Skyline can be found all over the city. And at the ballpark. I have to pass for this trip. Everyone who tries Skyline says it’s outstanding. But I only eat chili and/or meatloaf made by my wife.

I was surprised to see old fashioned hat stores in downtown Cincinnati. Several. And they had every type of hat one can imagine. But no baseball caps. Looking in the windows I felt I had stepped back in time 50 years. I mean, really. We don’t have hat stores in Phoenix. Not that I know of. But who wears a hat in 110 degrees?

I walked to Great American Ball Park from the hotel. Exactly 3165 steps according to my fit bit. It was a great walk along the downtown streets.

It poured all night long in Cincinnati on Saturday. I’m not used to seeing rain, but it was great to experience. Of course, everyone hopes it will stay away for the Futures Game today. Right now it’s humid but not raining. I just saw the sun.

I’ll be filing stories on the Futures Game at MLBPipeline.com. I then leave Cincinnati on Monday for Omaha and the Triple-A All Star Game next week. So keep up with me from there as well.

It’s so great to see so many fans walking around in Reds gear. Shirts, hats, everything. It’s a sea of Reds. And that’s how it should be. But yes, there are folks supporting other teams wearing their own colors proudly. But make no mistake. This is Reds country.

So watch this space throughout the week as I chronicle my time in Cincinnati and Omaha. And enjoy the Futures Game, the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game. It’s a great time to celebrate the great game of baseball.

That’s it. I’m done. And thanks for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.